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Hernando government reorganization plan calls for major staff changes

BROOKSVILLE — County Administrator David Hamilton will present county commissioners with a plan on Tuesday to trim nearly $600,000 from the county's budget by reclassifying top managers, restructuring his leadership team, adjusting salaries and eliminating three jobs.

The reorganization plan, released Thursday, includes some anticipated savings that won't be detailed until a consultant hired by the county completes a pay reclassification study next month.

Hamilton had promised commissioners a plan to better align management with the downsized county staff.

"The overall goal of this exercise was directly related to lowering our cost of operation based on continued and predicted declining revenues in all funds,'' especially the general fund, Hamilton wrote in his memo to commissioners.

But Hamilton said Thursday that he was careful to recommend only those cuts that are necessary at this point.

"I was not out to savage the organization,'' he said.

The recommendation includes immediate reductions, as well as areas for future cuts.

The move is part of the overall budget reduction made necessary by lower property values and falling property tax revenue. As of the commission's last discussion, officials were still scrambling to find another $1.4 million in cuts to balance the 2010-11 spending plan.

With changes made to date, and including Hamilton's proposed staffing reductions, that number is now just over $330,000.

Under Hamilton's proposal, the number of members on his leadership team would shrink from nine to six. Human resources director Cheryl Marsden, budget department director George Zoettlein and business development director Michael McHugh would all become managers with an accompanying reduction in pay once the reclassification study is done.

Hamilton himself will assume oversight of budget, communications, human resources, technology, contracts and purchasing. In those areas, Hamilton further recommends that a support desk supervisor position now held by Tim Grantham totaling $61,604 be eliminated.

He also notes that further reductions in purchasing will come to commissioners next month after they are finalized by the clerk of the Circuit Court.

McHugh would now report to Jean Rags, who directs community services, as would Recreation Department worker Ruby Turner, who would replace retiring tourism development director Sue Rupe. Hamilton wanted to fill the job with someone who understands his philosophy that tourism development should focus on bringing both new visitors and new businesses to the community — something more than just sponsoring events.

That focus would allow for tourism dollars raised through the bed tax to pay for the economic development supervisor position held by Valerie Pianta, who works with both tourism and business development.

Hamilton is also recommending that the Little Rock Cannery be funded through tourism dollars and operated as an attraction.

In addition, his recommendation includes transferring newly hired planner Patricia McNeese to the Community Development Department under Rags. Among that planner's duties will be to work with the community initiative teams for south Brooksville and Hernando Beach "to not only embrace lifestyle and infrastructure needs but also to embrace economic development opportunities to maximize a return on investment that will benefit the entire county,'' Hamilton wrote.

To handle the Rags' additional load, Hamilton is recommending that a human services specialist be reclassified as a health and human services manager.

In environmental services, Hamilton notes that while the $123,979 compensation package for director Joe Stapf is in line with his duties, he questions the other top Utilities Department salaries. Compensation for the five top management positions totals nearly $583,000, and Hamilton notes the structure will be reviewed in the classification study.

Fire Chief Mike Nickerson would become public safety director under Hamilton's plan. His position, the deputy fire chief's job and other leadership positions in fire-rescue would all be scrutinized in the planned classification study.

Calling the cost "excessive,'' Hamilton repeats an earlier concern that the multiple district chiefs have a total compensation package of nearly $600,000.

Immediate changes in fire service are not needed, he said, because the county recently learned that a federal grant may be coming to fully pay for additional fire-rescue personnel for two years. But Hamilton said there is still a need to consider the long term.

In the land services division led by Ron Pianta, Hamilton recommends eliminating one senior planner, Paul Wieczorek, and the recreation coordinator position now held by Harry Johnson. Those reductions would save $178,229.

Hamilton's reasoning is that the existing staff in each of those areas can handle the responsibilities.

Hamilton also echoes the recommendations made by the consultant hired to examine the Department of Public Works earlier this year by asking that interim public works director Susan Goebel be made the director of transportation services and that a new county engineer be advertised for immediately.

He also suggests that the commission consider eliminating the position of engineering services coordinator, which was recently vacated. The county would save $117,755 making that cut.

Commissioners will consider Hamilton's recommendations during their meeting at 9 a.m. Tuesday.

Barbara Behrendt can be reached at behrendt@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1434.

Hernando government reorganization plan calls for major staff changes 08/26/10 [Last modified: Thursday, August 26, 2010 8:34pm]
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